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Culture Fit Vs. Culture Add: Why Hiring for Culture Fit Can Be Problematic

Despite any diversity recruitment plans and strategies they may have in place, many organizations still rely on culture fit when making hiring decisions. Oftentimes it's because recruiters assume that when workers have the same qualities, they are better positioned to succeed at their company. Other times, organizations become complacent, and want to go with the same old same old because it's convenient and appears to have always worked in their favor.

But is this really the best approach for hiring?

While it may seem convenient to make hiring decisions based on culture fit, it can actually be a hindrance to organizations—especially if they’re trying to meet DEI goals.

Instead, companies should think about candidates in terms of what they add to the organization's culture, rather than how well they fit into it.

The Problem With Hiring Based on Culture Fit 

When you scratch beneath the surface, hiring for culture fit can actually cause more problems for companies than it solves. Some of the issues associated with this hiring practice include:

Gut feelings are not a good basis for hiring decisions

Recruiters may justify hiring for culture fit because they feel they have a well-tuned intuition that helps them make the right decisions. However, gut feelings are not facts, and they’re not necessarily a reflection of the applicants in front of them. This is because when recruiters connect with candidates, it’s often caused by a sense of familiarity they feel with them. They may misinterpret this feeling as an indicator of candidates being a good cultural fit, however, it's usually because they share many of the same qualities. As a result, hiring managers again and again and again will hire the same type of people based on their own bias, and not based on qualifications. This leads to a homogenous workplace culture that’s not necessarily filled with employees who are the best choice for the positions they’re in.

There can be no true culture fit metrics

When recruiters pursue candidates based on culture fit, what are they really talking about? This can be extremely murky, because culture can be hard to define and generally there aren't any valuable metrics that can be used to evaluate candidates in this way. In addition, culture is a matter of interpretation, and where one recruiter sees a cultural fit another may see a cultural hit. This makes the idea of hiring for culture fit an extremely ambiguous and unreliable metric to use when considering candidates.

Reinforcing a lack of diversity

When recruiters rely on gut feelings in order to make hiring decisions, if the organization does not have a diverse staff to begin with, they are going to continue hiring people exactly like them—people who do not come from underserved communities. As a result, despite the company's best intentions, hiring in this way will mean that the diversity will not improve because recruiters miss out on the great talent they're looking for.

Why Culture Add Is a Better Approach

If recruiters are going to factor in culture when making hiring decisions, it’s much better to think in terms of adding to an organization’s culture, rather than keeping the culture the same. The benefits of this approach include:

Reducing bias

Just as a recruiter may feel like someone who shares their background is a better cultural fit for their organization, they may believe that someone outside of this box is not a cultural fit. Neither one of these positions is based on a candidate’s qualifications, so the decision is made from bias—whether the recruiter is actually aware of it or not. By thinking of how a candidate can bring something valuable to the table that improves an organization, it reduces the chances of conscious and unconscious bias because the decision is based on merit alone.

Increasing innovation

The more diverse your workforce, the more likely your company is to be innovative because when people from different backgrounds come together with their unique perspectives, it helps to foster unique ideas. In fact, a study by Harvard Business Review found that companies with a higher-than-average level of diversity earn 19 percent higher innovation revenues than companies that are less diverse.

Reducing groupthink

When an organization is homogeneous, there is a tendency for people to have the same perspectives on issues. This leads to groupthink, which not only kills creativity, but also can hinder decision-making in a company. Instead, it's better to have untapped voices at the table, so solutions to problems can be effectively brainstormed because everybody doesn't have the same point of view.

If an organization is dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion, culture needs to be thought of in a different way. Instead of thinking about how hiring can help maintain a culture, companies should be thinking about how hiring can transform a culture to make it better. Hiring for culture add, rather than culture fit, is a great way to increase the diversity of an organization, while helping it grow and improve.

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